By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — A combination of some subpar play of his own and some elite play from Jaroslav Halak led to a long layoff for Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask — 10 days, to be precise.
So when Rask was finally put back on the ice for a start on Monday night against the Stars, he was likely eager to re-establish himself and his level of play for the Bruins. It didn’t start out so well.
Just 3:51 into the game, with the Bruins on an early power play, Dallas forward Radek Faksa threw a shot on net from 30 feet out, a shot that didn’t really have much of a chance to do anything but buy time for the short-handed Stars. But the woes for Rask continued, as he allowed the shot to get past him, putting the Bruins in an early hole.
At that point in the night, things looked dicey for Rask, who entered the night with a .902 save percentage and 3.15 goals-against average. The Bruins did tie the game on the same power play to climb out of the hole, but Rask was only given two opportunities for the remainder of the period to make a save for his team.
From that point forward, though, Rask recovered, stopping all nine shots in the second period, all 10 shots in the third period, and making a pair of stops in overtime en route to a 2-1 OT win for Boston.
“I just wanted to be solid, feel good about the game. I think at the end of the day it was a pretty decent game from my part, too,” Rask said after earning his fourth win of the year. “Doesn’t matter really if there’s a two day break or ten day break — just don’t let it affect your focus and mental preparation. It’s part of the job. It’s good to get the win.”
Though the Faksa shot did deflect off Torey Krug’s stick, Rask said that’s no excuse.
“Torey was saying that it dipped a little bit. But I should stop it,” Rask said. “Not a good start, tough first period, but we battled back thought we played a very solid game.”
As for the lack of playing time in recent weeks, Rask said he understands the dynamics of a team riding a hot goalie for as long as possible. And with Halak leading the NHL in both save percentage (.952) and GAA (1.45), Rask knows what Bruce Cassidy’s line of thinking is in giving more starts to Halak.
“The schedule hasn’t been crazy and Jaro has played unbelievable, that’s how it goes. If you’re a hot goalie like that then you got to let him play. I totally get it,” Rask said. “It hasn’t affected me mentally really that much. You just try to practice hard and feel that rhythm and feel the puck in practices, when you’re playing try to put your best out there and get the wins. It’s going to be a busy week this week so I think both of us are going to see a lot of action so go day by day, just practice hard when asked to.”
With 24 saves on 25 shots on Monday, Rask improved his save percentage and his GAA. But with those numbers at .909 and 2.78, respectively, he still has a long way to go before he even approaches his career numbers.
Rask was asked if his own experience of getting hot for long stretches has taught him how to flip a switch, so to speak, and have everything come together. Rask said the answer is generally found in the mental aspect of the job, not the physical.
“There’s probably just some clutch in your head that just switches. Like, ‘screw this,’ just try to have fun and let the puck hit you. I guess that’s kind of mainly what it is,” Rask said. “A lot of goaltending is mental. Everybody in the league has the skill to play at a high level. A lot of times you either win or lose the battle inside your head, and I’m trying to win it.”